“The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” – Robert Burns
Burns, who was a farmer himself, wrote words that best describe the overall success of the Artichoke Roast Festival at Crooked Sky Farms on Friday, March 30. This event was plagued with hiccups from start to finish on the first night. It proved to be a truly humbling experience for owner, Frank Martin, the staff, and chefs who supported the event. But, even with that being said, it was a unique and enjoyable experience that would have been a huge success, if so much had not gone awry.
The event was scheduled to run from 5:30PM – 9:30PM and was advertised to include a cuisine featuring artichokes and other farm fresh ingredients prepared by a chef, music, arts, and South Sea dancers. We arrived at 5:30, as the staff was finishing the event set up.
They set up a small table of fresh produce that had been harvested earlier in the day for purchase. The food smelled absolutely delightful as it was being prepared. We were anxious to partake, however, we took this opportunity to take a tour of the farm. They drove around small groups of four people in UTVs, showcasing the entire farm and the various planted fields. Information about how the ground was cultivated, cared for, and the naturally grown environment provided insightful information about how Frank Martin continues to run his farm.
I had never seen an artichoke plant, and to be honest, I had no idea what I was looking at until I asked the staff member who was leading the tour. We stopped for a few moments and I was able to get up close and personal with the field of artichokes. Crooked Sky Farms is proud of the fact that the produce they grow is naturally grown, with no use of pesticides or other chemicals. In fact, they work the land very little and use the remains of harvested crops to create compost to fertilize the fields.
Intermingled amongst the artichoke crops were a few rare, purple artichokes. We frequently find the common green artichokes, but this one was gorgeous with the dark purple hues decorating the majority of the fruit.
When we returned from the tour, the crowd had grown and there were well over 100 people in line waiting for the dinner the chefs were busily preparing.
The chefs were busy at work preparing dishes featuring produce and herbs that had been picked just hours earlier, including grilled chicken, sautéed onions and beets, dill boiled potatoes and of course, artichokes.
Unfortunately, this is where the hiccups truly became apparent.
Tickets were sold on various levels, with the most expensive adult tickets including a gift bag with a voucher for a meal from their chefs, 3 raw artichokes, a voucher for a free produce item (to be redeemed at leisure), a recipe book, and a small plant. The event was also scheduled to run both Friday and Saturday night. Tickets were sold, without a day specification, which clearly made planning difficult for Crooked Sky Farms.
The staff was putting together bags as quickly as they could, just barely able to keep ahead of the guests and they ran out of their recipe books. However, if you were not fortunate enough to get a gift bag with the recipe book included, you could email them with your address and they will mail you the recipe book. Admittedly, the recipe book was very small (8.5” x 11” pages quartered, stapled together, and only a handful of recipes).
Seating was minimal. There were only two picnic style tables and a handful of benches. We were out in the dirt fields, so if you chose to sit down on the ground, you would stand up covered in dirt. As a result, most of the guests were standing up to eat while holding their gift bags, any bags containing produce they had purchased, and their plate of food.
We stood in line for about 45 minutes waiting to get our food. The sun was nearly gone, and we were about 20 people from the start of the line when all of the chefs disappeared. The chefs and staff were frantically making phone calls and checking to find what was quickly available or could be harvested in a pinch because they had run out of food. Unfortunately, despite all of the wonderful aromas we had enjoyed prior to the farm tour, we were unable to taste the food.
The staff and chefs were genuinely humbled, ashamed, and embarrassed when the sun had set and there was no more food to be served to hungry guests. I can’t think of anything more deflating than the continual hiccups of the evening; to make matters worse, it was only 7PM.
Apparently many of the contracted vendors had cancelled at the last minute, leaving only two chefs to prepare the food for hundreds of guests. The South Shore dancers were not present either. As we left, we heard another couple speaking with the owner, Frank Martin, who sounded truly embarrassed and humbled at the nightmare of a night this event had become. It was rapidly declining and there was no way to recover this night; hopefully Saturday night will go smoother for them.
Despite all of this, both my husband and I enjoyed the time we spent at Crooked Sky Farms, even though we didn’t get to enjoy any of the wonderful food prepared by the chefs. We learned quite a bit about the farm itself and purchased some absolutely wonderful looking produce to take home. In addition to the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), we learned that the farm is open to the public Monday through Friday. Show up, tell them what you would like, and they will go out to the fields and pick it fresh for you.
This was the first event at Crooked Sky Farms that incorporated so many different aspects, from freshly prepared cuisine to farm tours. It was an educational experience for the staff, one from which I believe they have learned quite a bit. I would gladly attend another event, knowing that the Artichoke Roast Festival provided them with invaluable lessons that will allow them to better prepare for another event in the future.